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Weekly round-up: Workplace kitchen nightmares, bridge collapse aftermath, and AI takeover

By Kace O'Neill | |6 minute read

In this week’s round-up of HR news: how workplace kitchen etiquette can affect business, the potential job loss aftermath from the Baltimore bridge collapse, and more potential job losses in the UK with AI taking over.

Kitchen nightmares

According to ABC News, the cleanliness of an organisation’s communal kitchen and bathroom facilities is a serious matter that can affect workplace culture. As Libby Sander, an assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Bond University on the Gold Coast/Yugambeh Country, explained, it can be a good indicator of overall office culture.


“Going into the bathrooms and kitchen will clearly tell you, without spending a lot of money on engagement surveys, do people actually care about the workplace that they’re in?” Sander said.

She said most employees don’t deliberately set out to disregard their co-workers’ feelings, but a lack of consequences for inconsiderate etiquette and lazy habits can lead to it becoming entrenched behaviour.

“It might be ‘well, I didn’t wash my hands and I ate my lunch that time, so maybe it’s fine, I’m not going to get sick.’ Or perhaps ‘I didn’t wash my coffee cup and somebody else washed it up for me, that was good, maybe I’ll just keep doing that’,” Sander said.

If this behaviour is constantly repeated, workplace culture within a team environment can take a huge dive, and frustrations can arise, causing widespread tension. This tension can have big ramifications for business outcomes and productivity.

For example, a dirty office kitchen not only makes the task of finding clean cutlery and coffee cups a frustrating endeavour, but it also causes cognitive drain and productivity losses.

If the same people are constantly picking up the slack for messy co-workers, Sander said, “it’s going to lead to frustration and resentment, and maybe eventually going in and yelling at somebody, which is not the outcome that you want.”

“I’m sure we’ve all been in kitchens, where you’ve seen that people get so frustrated, they’ve actually put up a sign saying, ‘your mother doesn’t work here, please clean up after yourself’,” Sander concluded.

Bridge collapse aftermath

The Baltimore Union fears the loss of close to 2,400 jobs after the container ship, Dali, struck the base of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in the US city of Baltimore, claiming the lives of six people. The bridge collapsed into the Patapsco River, along with thousands of shipping containers, and eight construction vehicles plummeted into the water, with two workers sadly passing away.

For many workers at the port, that chain of events means that work has either slowed or stopped completely. “Quite a few are out of work right now,” said Scott Cowan, president of International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 333 in Baltimore. He represents 2,400 of the dockworkers and ILA members in the Port of Baltimore.

These are the workers who load and unload ships at the port. They operate the cranes. They receive and deliver cargo. They do maintenance and repair work on equipment and containers. They perform clerical work like timekeeping and recording the movement of cargo.

“Some of our maintenance guys and mechanics are still going to work to maintain the equipment in the facility. But the bulk of our work is the unloading and loading. That’s where the labour-intensive jobs are, where we use a lot of people. And that’s not happening right now,” said Cowan.

The state has set up a dedicated unemployment line for workers affected by the port closure. Through Wednesday (27 March), the day after the collapse, fewer than 200 affected workers had made unemployment claims.

The Maryland Senate president Bill Ferguson said earlier this week that he will sponsor emergency legislation to provide income replacement for workers impacted by the port’s closure.

AI takeover becoming too real for low-skilled workers

According to Sky News, close to 8 million jobs are at risk from the impending rise of artificial intelligence (AI). According to a new report, low-skilled workers are more at risk of losing their jobs.

The effects of AI on work have been an ongoing talking point, with the report now claiming that 11 per cent of tasks done by workers are currently exposed.

The report stated that back office, entry-level, and part-time jobs were at the highest risk of being disrupted during the so-called “first wave” of the takeover, with women and young people the most likely to be affected. However, its analysis also showed that as more employers integrate AI technology into their work processes, up to 59 per cent of tasks would be hit without government intervention, leaving the low-skilled most exposed.

The figure equated to 7.9 million roles, the report said, adding that such a shift would provide no benefit to gross domestic product (GDP). However, the authors painted that as the worst-case scenario.

On a more positive note, the report stated that if the transition was effectively managed through an industrial strategy that placed emphasis on protecting key human functions through regulation that aimed to unlock investment, particularly in training, then it could have a great impact on society. However, that is a difficult task.

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill

Kace O'Neill is a Graduate Journalist for HR Leader. Kace studied Media Communications and Maori studies at the University of Otago, he has a passion for sports and storytelling.